Tom Brokaw talks journalism at Minn. SPJ awards


Former NBC Nightly News anchor and managing editor gave the keynote address at the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalist's Page One Awards banquet. Brokaw spoke to a sold-out crowd of approximately 250 of the state's best journalists about the state of journalism today and the importance of journalism to the world.

Check out a recap and the full speech in video below.

Brokaw, raised in a small South Dakota town on the Missouri River, grew up reading the Minneapolis papers. He carried the Minneapolis Tribune as a young boy, remembering preciously when he started the coveted job.

"I did that beginning in 1953, just about the time they were beginning the Franken/Coleman recount," he joked. "And as I remember, when I began carrying the Minneapolis Tribune they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sid Hartman's column."

Brokaw mentioned some remarks he gave nearly nine years ago about the importance of journalism to the world.

"I grew up in working class communities in small towns in South Dakota with a family of very modest means, but suddenly we had a television set in the corner of our living room that would transport us around the world to these remarkable journalists," he remembered. "We were witness in our homes in ways we had never been before to the events that defined our times."

Brokaw came with no wisdom beyond that of any other media expert hoping to find the answer to the industry's troubles. Our biggest mistake: Making consumers believe information was free.

"The most serious mistake we made at the beginning of the IT era, the place of cyberspace in our lives, is that we allowed the young pioneers in that business and the users of it to proclaim to the world... that information is free. It is not free. It's expensive and goes well beyond the salaries all of you represent. Printing a newspaper, sending photographers, getting distribution processes in place on trucks, trains or automobiles."

He stressed the importance of journalists during the Civil Rights Movement to uncover injustice around the country. He reminded everyone of the world's reliance on journalists for information during the most uncertain and frightening events of our time. And he didn't hesitate to say that if journalism were left to people on blogs and Twitter, we wouldn't be getting the quality journalism produced by paid professionals. 

"We have a great generational divide, not just about the delivery of news, but why journalism is important and how journalism can affect lives... If any of these events were left simply to the bloggers or to people who Twitter or the radio talk hosts of America, how informed would the world be if that were the case? We have to become evangelists for our own profession and our place in this country."

Watch the full speech below, in four parts. Video by CP's Bradley Campbell: